Regular maintenance yields 300,000-mile payoff

Jack Borden likes cars, but he's very specific. Jack likes older cars - and the longer he can keep a car, the better.

Take his 1970 Dodge Dart, which is about to turn 300,000 miles on the odometer. That's 300,000 miles! And the best part of the story is that he's done very little to the car over its lifetime - or part-time lifetime, since it's still going. He only sees to the usual tuneups, new shocks, keeping the tires in shape, replacing the muffler and tailpipe, and adding gas.

Many long-lived cars have had much more basic work done to the engine and other systems on them, asserts Bordon. His Dart, he says, has never spent any serious time in a garage for repairs. It has never had the head off the engine. There have been a few other things, but they're not too important.

''Regular maintenance,'' says Jack Borden, a former TV newsman for Channel 4 in Boston and now with Channel 5. Borden also was the originator of the Spacious Skies project that is dedicated to raising the ''sky consciousness'' of Americans - in other words, a greater understanding and appreciation for the sky above the land.

Way back in 1940 - ''even before I was a teen-ager,'' says Jack - I learned a lesson. ''My father had a 1938 Buick, and I learned the lessons of longevity in automobiles. The five principal parts are these:

* Never be in haste to start up a car or stop it.

* Change the engine oil and filter faithfully, and use only high-quality oil.

* Never - that's never - let a car warm up. ''An engine should be warmed up under load,'' Jack says he was told at the time.

* Never - again, that's never - drive fast through puddles. ''It can lead to body rot before it's time,'' says Borden.

* Take it easy on bumpy roads. ''Too many bumps,'' he asserts, ''can loosen up the whole car.''

Long-lived cars are a habit with Borden. The TV newsman says he once got 150, 000 miles out of a Chevrolet Impala before he got rid of it; and another 150,000 miles in a '65 Dart. The 1970 Dodge Dart already has gone as far as the Impala and '65 Dart combined - and he intends to keep on driving it.

Jack Borden also owns a '78 Ford Pinto.

Does he abuse a car on the road? ''Not abuse,'' he declares, but ''I don't baby it either.'' He says his 24-year-old son, who got his driver's license at 161/2, also drives the Dart, and ''has laid rubber on Route 128.''

Borden was so impressed with his present Dart that he got in touch with Chrysler Corporation when the car had turned about 250,000 miles.

''I was the originator of the Spacious Skies project,'' he explains, ''and I told Chrysler I would be willing to take the car across the country, promote its longevity, and take pictures of the sky if Chrysler would help with the cost. I was asked to come up with a budget.

''I gave Chrysler a budget of $2,600 for tolls, gasoline, liverwurst sandwiches, and cheap motels. I got a letter back saying the company couldn't afford it.

Somewhat taken aback, Borden points out that such companies as Mercedes-Benz and Volvo loudly tout the longevity of their cars. Chrysler obviously is more interested in what it can sell today.

''Meanwhile,'' asserts Borden, ''nobody has ever challenged my car and said their car had any more mileage on it without being overhauled. My car has been up and down all kinds of roads and byways in New England, and has more salt in her than a Gloucester sailor.

''I have deliberately stayed away from doing anything to the car till it hit 300,000 miles. No one can accuse me of being a backyard mechanic. It's my car, and I use it every day.''

On the open road he says he gets between 21 and 22 m.p.g., but only about 17 around town.

Over the years, Jack has replaced the shock absorbers and the battery a half-dozen times. After 230,000 miles the radiator had to be replaced as well as the heater core and electrical coil.

Most of the transmission fluid is ''original,'' he says - that is, it was put in when the car was brand-new.

Now that Jack Borden's Dodge Dart is about to hit 300,000 miles - honest miles - he plans to dress it up a bit, getting rid of some rust, refinishing the fenders, and generally putting the car in better shape.

But as for the engine, it just runs on . . . and on . . . and on.

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